The year 2000 saw the Internet industry climb to its highest peaks and sink to its lowest depths, financially speaking, following the tech wreck on the world's stock markets. Many of the expected trends for 2000 turned out to be little more than over-hyped buzzwords and, as a consequence, the market is now treading very cautiously in making investments in Internet services. But while there have been many failures and predictions of many more to come, service providers are confident 2001 will see the value of B2B transactions, electronic commerce and application service provision recognised by the market.
According to most service providers, 2001 will be the year the wider market catches up with the early adopters, as smaller businesses begin advancing through the early stages of Internet use and consider more complex business ventures.
"The Web-hosting market will just keep growing," said Stephen Johns, marketing manager for Web hosting service provider WebCentral. "There's a lot of business people who still aren't online, and even at the lowest common denominator, putting up a simple Web site is better for informing people about your products and services than sending a fax. And while there's nothing leading-edge about hosting anymore, we still need to evangelise the grass-roots stuff."
Michael Ellies, general manager of ASP services at Web hoster Peakhour, said that while many small businesses are using the Internet for hosting and collaboration services, the next 12 months will be the year they become confident with procuring and selling using the Internet.
"There is still a lot of education needed before small businesses are confident about buying and selling on the Web," he said. "There is a lot of potential for us to get more small businesses involved in e-commerce as customers become more familiar with the Internet and understand the value proposition of the ASP model."
In the next 12 months, Ellies expects to see a much higher uptake in buying and selling on the Web as B2B market places start to gain more prominence. "The forces of competition will convince people to take a stronger, serious look at doing business on the Internet," he said.
As to whether any of these new channels will have an adverse effect on the traditional reseller, most players agree there are new spaces becoming available for resellers to provide specialised Internet services.
"Resellers are selling to those customers with more complex needs or those customers who do not understand the market and want the problem taken out of their hands," said Ellies.
Pictured: Peakhour GM Michael Ellies